Jamie Collins is glad to be back.
“It was like going back home for the first time,” said Collins, who previously played for the Patriots from 2013 to 2016 and in 2019. “Leaving. Like you’re going in the service or something. You just show back up home and it’s like, a big smile on my face. I couldn’t stop smiling.
“It was just super cool, man, to come back in here and just know that I can go out with these guys again. For a third time. Like, three times? That’s big. I’m just super grateful for it.”
The Detroit Lions cut Collins last week after removing him from the starting lineup, then trying and failing to trade him. The soon-to-be 32-year-old said he “definitely” feels motivated to produce for the Patriots.
“The standard over here is very high,” Collins said. “They’ve got the wins, they’ve got the Super Bowls, they’ve got everything to back it up. So it’s only right to come in here and try to catch up. I just feel like when you come in here with guys like Devin McCourty, (Dont’a) Hightower, (Matt) Judon, Bill (Belichick), (Matthew) Slater — there’s so many guys here that it’s like, ‘I’ve got to catch up.’ You just feel behind. They’ve been doing this for a long time. So it’s just different. I’ve been here, but I still feel behind here right now. I’m still catching up.”
Veteran safety Devin McCourty said Collins immediately made his presence felt when he arrived back at Gillette Stadium on Wednesday.
“As soon as he got in here, (he was) cracking jokes and getting it going,” McCourty said. “(He’s) obviously a guy that’s played here and played at an extremely high level throughout his career, so having him back here is going to be great. I think he brings great energy and a presence in the locker room just by how he is.”
Led by the linebacker trio of Collins, Hightower and Kyle Van Noy, New England fielded one of the NFL’s top defenses in 2019. All three now are back with the team after spending the 2020 season elsewhere. This past offseason, the Patriots brought back Van Noy after a season in Miami, returned Hightower from his COVID-19 opt-out and added Judon, a two-time Pro Bowler with the Baltimore Ravens.
Judon has looked as advertised thus far, but New England’s linebacking corps as a whole has underperformed, with Van Noy, Bentley and Josh Uche all missing time with injuries and Hightower slowly reintegrating after his year away from the game.
Belichick said Friday that Collins will give the Patriots “some depth at that spot.”
Collins officially signed on Wednesday and made his return to the practice field on Thursday. Asked whether he expects to play Sunday against the Houston Texans, he said he hopes to but isn’t sure.
“Whatever the man wants, the man gets,” Collins said, referring to Belichick. “So we’ll see.”